Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Vintage Style: Christmas Jumpers

Just a quick post before Christmas and I’ll be back in the New Year.

After a brief resurgence of the Fair Isle jumper last winter it seems that the British Public have truly embraced the jumper this year!

From vintage hand knitted wonders to Primark Fair Isle replicas they come in all shapes and sizes. Even I have one! Although at the time of writing this post I don’t have access to a photo of it :(

Here’s a picture of me with some Fair Isle earmuffs on the Eiffel Tower last December (it was very very cold!):

Initially booming in the late 80s and early 90s the heavily patterned jumper always had an element of the ‘geek chic’ about it. I remember having jumpers as a kid with faces of cartoon characters, snowmen and even the odd reindeer on them but the current resurgence is not just for kids and Noel Edmonds!

Not a Christmas jumper, but close enough...
Several Brighton shops have championed the patterned jumper such as Ju-Ju and student favourite Dirty Harry.

With this ease of availability the young hipster kids in their vintage jumpers have helped to bring the Christmas Jumper back as a fashion staple this year, but the current economic status, the increase in hand-me-downs and the boom of vintage have all contributed to the rise of the patterned jumper.

Hipsters! Image source
They have been in the media for many years though, possibly most famously in the movie 'Bridget Jones' Diary' where Mr. Darcy is seen for the first time wearing a reindeer jumper.

Even the BBC have caught the trend with their latest Christmas ident displaying a knitted reindeer and their Christmas feature advert showing their biggest stars this year all wearing Christmas jumpers and singing in a festive house.

BBC cast form their 2011 christmas advert: Christmas Jumpers!
Even current Doctor Who Matt Smith gets in on the action... with a Cyberman:

I even managed to catch a glimpse of Marge Simpson wearing a Christmas jumper in this festive edition of the Simpsons!

Ironically the one person not wearing a Christmas jumper this year is Noel, who seems to have opted for the safe suit in his latest Christmas specials- it would seem he is just destined to be out of style :(

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Vintage Events: A Collectif Party

After an exhausting day packaging my brother onto a train back home for Christmas I decided to stop by the new Collectif London opening party at Old Spitalfields Market. A perfect location for the 50s style shop with its frequent vintage fairs and proximity to the thrift shops of Brick lane.

Spitalfields market
I have been a fan of Collectif ever since I stumbled upon their shop in Camden market a few years ago.

I’m not sure the clothing can be considered vintage reproduction as the measurements and sizes are not vintage (like say Vivien f Holloway) so when you try on a size 12, it really is a size 12. But the styles are certainly rockabilly and vintage 1950s inspired even if the colours and styles are somewhat exaggerated. But I really do love the over the top style!

I particularly like their doll dresses as they give you a great swing and they have a longer length to maintain your dignity even while doing an American Spin.
(A small word of caution when ordering online, their sizes are very variable so make sure you check their measurements!)

The party at the market was a fun event with music playing, pinup clientele and a sip of Sailor Jerry’s.

Folks in the party mood
Rails of the lovely dresses
There was also a pop up pin-up photo booth and make up service provided by Rockabetty Studios. They were able to provide ladies with the vintage look in no time and their photographer was downstairs to take photos in the lovely dresses.

Creating the vintage look...
...then capturing it on film
I have had my eye on the Tammy dress in navy for some time, however they only had the red available for me to try on.

Tammy dress in red
Although it was very nice, I do have several similar red dresses like this, so I will probably be ordering the navy version from their online store.

Collectif have also recently branched out in to winter dresses made of velvet, like the Trina. Although I am not typically a fan of this look, the shape of this dress is just so flattering! Sadly they didn’t have the dress in my size either… but at least I can order online!

Trina dress in sky... and a size too small :(
All in all it was a fun event, I wish I had arrived a little earlier so there wasn’t such a big queue for a photo session. Who knows, maybe I will have my own done some time?

P.S. I'd also like to mention the Lego Christmas tree in St. Pancras station. It was pretty cool!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Cosplay Costumes: A Purr-Fect Catwoman Costume?

As you may have previously read I attended the London MCM Expo over the Halloween weekend this year. Although I have already reported on one of my costumes here and I thought it was time to tell you about the other.
As it was Halloween weekend I thought something slightly themely was in order, and as I am apparently on a secret mission to see just how many times I can adapt and modify the same catsuit, Catwoman seemed like an inspired choice. After all, I am certainly not the first, nor will I be the last person to dress as a black cat on Halloween.

Miranda and Carrie from Sex and the City

As Miranda from Sex and the City says:
'The only two choices for women; witch and sexy kitten.'

It was at this point that the really tough decision had to be made: which catwoman?

The timely appearance of photographs of Anne Hathaway from the set of The Dark Knight Rises and their striking resemblance to the 60s catwoman portrayal by Julie Newmar that made this decision easier for me (I even wrote about it here). Well that and the fact I didn’t feel I would suit the pixi crop as seen in the Catwoman comics...

Can anyone else feel the retro vibe here?
As I already had most of the costume,  I begain by buying the ears. They were a little larger than the typical cat ears, but I wanted big hair as befitting of a 60s legend so the size of the ears would have to compensate for the size of the hair.

The waves were achieved by rolling my hair under the black canary wig the day before and then brushing them out in the morning, I then parted the hair so I could have a small beehive at the back, but could still pull the front sections over the headband to make the ears look more ‘natural’.
For once the make up was straightforward, I used a basic tinted moisturiser base with a small amount of blush, then simple 60s lined eyes and pale lips.

Here is the final look:

I felt the look was fairly successful, but perhaps not as much as Black Canary the day before. I saw several other Catwomen on the day, but none were 60s style so I was pleased with that!

Overall the day was great, I felt much happier being part of the fancy dress crowd than when I had visited the expo in May (read about that here)- perhaps I’m just getting a little more daring about these things :D

There were a few exciting panels, in particular a session with Gail Simone who told us about how she got into writing comics, some of her projects, old and new, and answered some really tough fan questions about the DCnU!

I was also lucky enough to try Mario 3DS and Luigis mansion 2 at the Nintendo unleashed stand. From what I managed to play, I’d say both come highly recommended!
The folks at Nintendo unleashed were also giving away a little special something in honour of the release and success of Ocarina of time on 3ds- A real working ocarina! And believe me I have been playing mine almost every day since I opened the packet.

What was the first thing I played? Well… after warming up with a little row row row your boat, I launched straight into the Stargate SG1 theme tune :D

All I can say is do I feel a little bit of Lady Link cosplay coming on?

I’ve had a few ideas for further costumes I’d like to have a go at, but sadly the comic cons are over for me until the new year. I am hoping to attend one in February though, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Vintage Inspirations: Is 2011 the year of the vintage style wedding dress?

So I’ll admit in posting this I am slightly bias… (okay I’m very bias) given that I’m planning a wedding myself but while researching wedding things it has become apparent to me that the trend of having a ‘vintage wedding’ is on the rise.

Vintage weddings have always been popular, as evidenced by websites like Rock N’ Roll Bride and consistent wedding features in VintageLife Magazine. But these days it seems that even the more main-stream wedding has been leaning towards the more vintage-y feel.

In Spring 2011 the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was seen by millions of people in the UK alone. The event was celebrated with street parties and pub parties, in-fact many shops shut during the ceremony so staff could watch!

While the day was not exactly vintage, the day was steeped in tradition and had a very old fashioned feel to it. In particular Kate’s dress:

The very traditional dress designed by award winning designer Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen and had a distinct vintage flair- with many parallels drawn between this dress and Grace Kelly’s:

Kate with Grace

Image source: eonline

My favourite aspects of the dress are the beautifully fitted lace sleeves and the sweetheart bodice that shows a small amount of decolletage while still remaining very classy- perfect in a wedding dress. Overall the gown managed to look traditional without looking frumpy and is steeped in sumptuous detail. I get the impression people will be asking for replicas of this dress for many years to come!

Speaking of replica gowns the dress was kept under wraps until the moment the future Princess stepped out of the car! However replica dresses have sprung up form several places including high-street store Peacocks. My favourite of the ‘inspired by Kate dresses’ are the shortened versions like The Cambridge sold by Dolly Couture- for the bride aiming for a more 50s swing dress look.

Of course William and Kate was not the only big wedding this year!

The other wedding I am referring to is that of vampire Edward Cullen and Bella Swan from this years Twilight franchise film Breaking Dawn Part 1. Twi-hard fans have been waiting to see Bella’s wedding dress since the books release in 2008. The dress is very well described in the book as a 1900s vintage dress with lace features and modern twists and the final design for the film was kept just as secret as Kate’s!

Bella’s Caroline Herrera designer gown was recently valued at $35 000 and made with satin and Chantilly lace. The dress had a distinctive 20s feel to it, with the plain front, deco lines and again, lace features:

Beautiful lace details
 Image source: HeyUGuys

Although the wedding itself was very quaint its strong rustic feel and use of flowers help to give the ceremony the traditional feeling. However the wedding was filled with some quirky touches that made it seem a little bit different, my favourite of these being Bella’s decision to wear her white sneakers under the dress.

Several replicas of Bella’s dress have surfaced already- in particular this version by Alfred Angelo.

Now I’m not the first to draw parallels between these two weddings, I even found one article suggesting that Pippa Middleton’s dress was the inspiration for Bella’s! However I feel that the similarities in the retro choices of the brides reflect a greater general trend towards vintage styling, as seen in the high-street with 40s tea-dresses, 70s colours and 90s jumpers, but that’s just my humble opinion…

…and in case you were wondering vintage styling will be something I will be considering with my choice of wedding dress ;) but I can’t share details on that yet!

So for now,
Happy Dresscapades!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Vintage Outfits: Flapping Around...


As you know, I recently visited an event in Brighton called Blind Pig (click here to see what I thought of it). The theme of this event was 1920s speakeasy with an electroswing style, which of course means only one thing at Fancy Dresscapades... Flappers!

Flapper is the name given to the Charleston dancing girls that wore drop waisted satin and lace dresses, feathers in their hair, cloche hats and seamed silk stockings that were very popular in the roaring 1920s.

The finest of Flappers

Anyone who knows me a little will know that I am a keen lindyhopper and have picked up a fair amount of charleston skill during my time performing with Sussex Swing under the careful instruction of Lizzie Abrahams a few years ago. So this event seemed like a perfect oppertunity to dress the part and put on my dancing shoes again!

Basic costume design

 I have been to a few different events of this type and have worn mainly the more characature style charleston dress that is a box shape and often has some fringing to it. For a change this time I wanted to wear something a little different and went with a navy lace number I picked up at Frock Me in Brighton last year- for a meer £5 I may hasten to add! The dress itself is actually from the 80s, but after pinning in the sleeves I felt it had quite a 20s shape.

 For hair and make up I curled my hair by pinning it up an a pseudo-victory roll style- a hot tip I picked up from my friend Sadie Doherty (reporter extraordinaire for the Vintage News and the former head of the University of Sussex Swing Dance Society) and took them out just before the evening. This meant my hair was lovely and curly and sat underneath my cloche hat rather nicely.

My makeup was a very toned down version of the 20s look with silvery metallic eyes, dark eyeliner and lipstick. I might have pushed this a little further had I had a bit more time to get dressed- woops!

I feel as a costume it worked quite well

Let me know what you think

I’ll have a gallery of some of my former flappers up in the new year too if you’re looking for some more inspiration on the look.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Vintage Events: Blind Pig - Brighton's Fabulous Fundrasing Speakeasy

Held at the beautiful and chic Proud Brighton Ballroom the Blind Pig is an event that mixes burlesque cabaret and dancing to the tunes of an electro-swing speakeasy.

Blind Pig takes its name from the prohibition era Speakeasy where owners of bars and clubs would charge guests to see a novelty animal while serving a complimentary alcoholic beverage- thus exploiting loopholes in the anti-liquor laws.

This piggy however was created for a different purpose. The night was conceived as a fundraiser for students at Brighton University studying Textile Design, their aim being to provide funds for their end of year degree show.

When asked about creating the night, Carolyn, one of Blind Pigs organisers stated:

“Many other year groups/disciplines hold fundraising nights and I wanted ours to be different, appeal not just to the student market and also be something I could continue with after graduation. Burlesque and dance is all I know and I wouldn't know how to put on another type of night! I wanted to make it accessible to a younger audience who may not have been to such an event before and have a mixed audience of all ages and backgrounds.”

Photo Source: 1 and 2 Lucid Photography and Blind Pig. 3 FD.
Some of the acts
I felt that this attitude of the organisers was certainly reflected in the wide range of attendees. The opulence of the Brighton Ballroom provides a perfect back drop for the speakeasy stylings of this event, with its deco mirrors, trendy bar serving sumptuous cocktails and its beautiful domed ceiling.

The event itself started quietly with most guests seated around the bar and table areas, but as the place filled up the acts came thick and fast! The show sessions consisted of around four or five different burlesque based acts- ranging from a male pole dancer (correct terminology?) to a pasties sporting fire eater. The acts themselves came in two blocks and began almost as the doors opened so DON’T BE LATE! Numbers were announced by compere Kat Frost and separated by perfectly selected and mashed electro-swing songs by DJ Gareth Jones.

Compere Kat and DJ Gareth
After the show portion of the night had finished the dance floor opened for a fine selection of tunes playing until the wee hours of the morning.

All in all the night ran very smoothly, with rapid turn around of acts, a vibrant buzz of attendees and still enough room to Charleston (…just!).

Photo Source: Lucid Photography and Blind Pig
Well dressed attendees!
My favourite act of the night was a lovely fan dance by Cherry Bella with seemless movement and a beautiful traditional performance.

Cherry Bella
Many of the organisers of the event were also performers at the show, and their enthusiasm for their art was clearly evident. This is the 4th event that they have held at the Brighton Ballroom and hopefully they will keep Blind Pig going long after they graduate!

In my time as a lindy hopper I have had the opportunity to attend and even perform at a few Speakeasy type events, and always enjoy dressing for the part. With this in mind I asked Carolyn about Blind Pig's attitude to costumes:

“I think people love to dress up, with this sort of theme it's quite easy as well. You don't have to go all out, just a few accessories can make you feel the part. It is always great when people do go all the way of course! It definitely helps with the mood and atmosphere, if people put the effort in before the night starts then you know they are up for a good night!”

Photo Source: Lucid Photography and Blind Pig
The era of the feathered headband
Just looking around the venue you could see that many people shared this sentiment, the popularity of the feathered headband and dicky bow-tie was clear although some extra special outfits were also seen. My personal favourite costumes were a couple dressed as and RAF officer and a 20s siren.

Photo Source: Lucid Photography and Blind Pig
Dressing Fancy indeed!
It was exceptionally difficult however to get many good photographs at the event as the lighting and quick movement was simply more than my little camera could handle. However their resident photographer Simon Callaghan at Lucid Photography more than made up for my incompetence, taking some fantastic shots during the evening (they can be found here)!

Photo Source: Lucid Photography and Blind Pig
My fiance and I
The Blind Pig will return in the new year, but the exact date is still hush hush- you never know who may be watching!

But you can find out more here or follow on @BlindPig1920 on twitter for the latest updates.

There'll be another post on my costume for this event following shortly...

Happy Dresscapades!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Casual Cosplay: The Theory of The Big Bang's T-Shirts

I felt like mentioning something a little different today. I am a fan of The Big Bang Theory, and whether you like the shows content or not, I feel it does something for costuming and fashion that few shows do:

Championing the geeky t-shirt!

From the earliest blossom of the ‘emo’ trend back in the early naughties to the current (or teenies…?) trends for late 80s and 90s styling- the nerdy t-shirt is something that has been rapidly pushed to the forefront.

Clark Kent- the original geeky t-shirt?

Of course being a bit of a comic fiend I certainly appreciate the many shirts of the lead character Sheldon Cooper, played by fan favourite Jim Parsons.  Sheldon, a theoretical physicist, is the definitive geek and this is reflected in his wardrobe. The shirts range from regularly occurring portraits of heroes The Flash and Green Lantern to geometry themed, science fiction references and retro gaming. In fact the cult of the Sheldon tee has even spawned several websites Sheldonshirts is particularly nice as it provides many links to vendors selling similar tees so you can buy your own.

The shows use of geeky shirts has also lead to the creation of a large franchise of Big Bang Theory t-shirts so that the Sheldons among us can share the love. A particularly iconic/ironic choice is the ‘Bazinga!’ shirt often featuring variations in colours and styles (my favourites are those that replicate The Flash t-shirts Sheldon wears so often) and sometimes even featuring Sheldon’s face (available here).

Other than t-shirts the show is a haven for alternatives to traditional costuming, the five main characters are very stylised, Leonard Hofstader (Johnny Galeck) is a typical casual geek, Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) has his track jackets and patterned jumpers, Penny’s (Kaley Cuoco) preppy casuals and Howard Wolowitz’s (Simon Helberg) has a constant 70s vibe. Even the more recent additions to the cast, Amy Farrah Fowler and Bernadette Rostenkowski, have very distinctive styles and there is excellent potential for group costumes.

An extra added bonus for this programme is that they love cosplay (especially as the Justice League) from the episode where they all dress as The Flash for Halloween to the ‘The Justice League Recombination’ where they dress as the full team for the comic shop cosplay competition, and as a molecular biologist I appreciate the use of the word recombination! (I also mentioned Penny’s Wonder Woman outfit here).

So quick he can be in several places at once!

A particular favourite moment features Sheldon dressed as the Doppler effect and miming noises at confused party guests who think he’s a zebra.

On the whole, even though the show is filled with stereotypes and gimmicks I find that the portrayal of geeks is handled with a particular affection that I can’t help but appreciate (even my extremely nerdy fiancé finds the show amusing!) so I assume they must be doing something right.

The Big Bang Theory season 5 can be found on channel4 OD now and airs on CBS in the United States.

Just to finish I though I’d recommend a few places where you can find some geeky t-shirts of your own: Snorg TeesThink Geek and Cafe Press

Happy Dresscapades!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cosplay Costume: Black Canary (Or my day having more fun as a blonde…)

Last week I made the trip to London to attend the MCMexpo. Advertised as London’s comic con and the largest cosplay event in the UK, I had decided that after a rather conservative effort as Victoria Hand last MCM that I was going to go for something a little more adventurous this time.

The event was held over Halloween weekend too so it seemed an even better time to flex those fancy dresscapade muscles.

For the Saturday I had decided to dress as Black Canary, the fishnet clad fighter with the sonic scream. She is featured prominently in several DC books, a member of the Justice League, ex-wife of Green Arrow and most famously known for her role in the Birds of Prey. Although I do particularly like the art of Ed Bene's in BoP but I decided to go for the more classic Canary look as seen in Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Canary Kick!
The main parts of her look are the blond hair, fishnets and boots combo with the black bodysuit and jacket.

This presented me with two challenges that I have never faced before:
1: Going Blonde
2:Getting to London in little more than a pair of fishnets and then walking around wearing only them...

The first was easy to address, I searched on eBay and found a Chinese shop selling cosplay wigs for around £12 with free postage. They had 1000s of positive feedback so I decided to risk it- personally I think the wig I received was excellent value for money, it completely covered all of my hair, was easy to de-tangle and surprisingly comfortable! Although it did take two weeks to arrive…

The second challenge was something that required simple nerves of steel. To get to London I wore a skirt over the ensemble but I found that once I arrived at the Excel centre seeing so many people in thousands of different types of cosplay that no matter what I would survive. 

(Interestingly glamorous people of a different inclination were also attending the Excel for UK’s Top Model I’m not entirely sure they appreciated the slightly strange attire of those of us at the Expo, although one lady did compliment me on my 'fabulous wig')

So here is the final look of the costume, I think it went fairly well :D

Most of the purchases for this outfit came from eBay, with the wig, biker jacket, gloves etc. The bodysuit is an altered swimming costume and the boots were my own. All-in-all it cost around £30 but it is mainly made up of items that I can wear again so I didn’t mind. Something I feel is important to add about this outfit is that I was actually wearing two pairs of tights. One pair of thick opaque beige tights from BHs to cover my legs and then the fishnets over the top- it made me much more comfortable and hides the sins much better than just wearing the fishnets!

Rather interestingly for me, one of my favourite comic authors Gail Simone was appearing as a guest at the MCMexpo on her first trip to London Comic-con. Simone is known for several runs on comics-including, most recently, Barbara Gordon's return as Batgirl in the DCnU52. But she was also the author for a long and famous run on Birds of Prey- the very comic my character was prominently featured in!

As a result of this I was reduced to utterly useless fangirl…

I met Simone at a signing table and asked her to sign my comics. I was incredibly nervous for no particular reason but I felt much better when she told me that I looked amazing and posed for a picture with me.

I noticed later that she had tweeted about a Black Canary cosplayer and replied to one of my tweets.

‘Also there was a fantastic, adorable Black Alice cosplayer and a tremendous Black Canary cosplayer...both incredibly lovely. So fun!’ and ‘@JennieWhitwood Aw, you looked phenomenal! But I didn't get a picture of you! :('

I think that given this reaction I can judge my costume to have been a success (I hope :S). It was a real honour to get such a comment from a comic superstar- couldn't have been any better :D
During the day I was even asked by a few people to pose for photos, hopefully I won't end up on any of those bad costume blogs...

During the second day I dressed as a 60s style Catwoman (very loosely based on Julie Newmar) and I’ll post on that soon, until then…

Happy Dresscapades!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Cosplay: A EuroCosplay Gallery

There won't be many words in this post, I thought I'd add some photos of the other entrants of the EuroCosplay at the MCM expo in London. I've not included and of the winners as the can be found here. (There are a few entries I couldn't get pictures for but there are videos of all entrants on Batale's youtube channel).

Who's you're favourite?

Slovakia:  Mephisto Pheles from Ao no Exorcist

Finland: Male Scout from Granado Espada

Belgium: Claus Haine from Scissors Crown

Latvia: Gundam Exia from Gundam 00

Norway: Joker from Kuroshitsuji

Poland: Azriel from Castle Age

Portugal: Chun Li from Street Fighter

Lithuania: Araghast from Dawn of War

Denmark:  Hikaru from Magic Knight Rayearth

Ireland: Ultimecia from Final Fantasy 8

Italy: Zhen Ji from Dynasty Warriors 7

Bulgaria: Blaster Blade from Cardfight Vanguard
Switzerland: Hizaki from the Versailles.
Portugal: Hera from Saint Seiya

Estonia: Chii from Chobits

The Czech Republic: Welkin Gunther from Valkyria Chronicles

France: Female Musketeer from Granado Espada

 UK: Priss from Bubblegum Crisis 2040.

Austria: Buggy from One Piece

Hungary: Queen Esther from Trinity Blood

Belgium: Mateus from Final Fantasy XII

Netherlands: Kefka from Final FantasyVI

And that's all I have... I hope you were as impressed as I was!

For now, Happy Dresscapades!

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